Large doses of common painkillers increase risk of heart death in healthy people

Healthy people who take high doses of pain killers--even for as short a time as two weeks--are at higher risk for heart problems or strokes, according to a large study out of Denmark, released today in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

This is the first study to look at the risk of healthy people who take such drugs. It was based on the medical records of more than one million people who took NSAIDs between 1997 and 2005. Among the population, there were 769 deaths from heart disease and stroke.

Lead author Emil Loldrup Fosbol said the bad news impacts virtually all nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For example, while ibuprofen--the drug sold under brands like Motrin and Advil--may reduce the risk of heart attack at low doses, that risk increases if the dose goes up to 1,200 mg per day or more. Naproxen, sold as Aleve, comes out best, along with plain old aspirin. Neither drug appears to increase the risk of heart disease or stroke.

"Physicians initiating NSAID treatment should always make an individual assessment of cardiovascular risk and carefully consider the balance between benefit and risk before starting treatment with any NSAID," the authors concluded.

To learn more:
- check out the study
- here's the study's abstract
- read this WebMD article